Archive for the ‘Citizen Journalism 101’Category

Still relevant: Shirley Sherrod vs. Andrew Breitbart

A few years ago a video appeared from conservative stunt blogger Andrew Breitbart of U.S. government official Shirley Sherrod saying supposed racist comments to a group. It later came out that the video was edited to show this while, in context, Mrs. Sherrod was saying just the opposite.

She sued Breitbart for defamation, and the case still continues with a judge denying Breitbart’s motion to dismiss the case.

Even though this incident occurred a while back, the lessons learned are still relevant.

Lessons Journalists Can Learn From the Shirley Sherrod Video Fiasco (Tony Rogers, About.com)

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28

02 2012

The Big Picture Street Photographer of the Year winners

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We’re proud to announce the result of our wonderful competition that attracted thousands of participants from around the world. Thanks to The-Latest.Com, the Citizen Journalism Educational Trust, Time Out and Olympus.

It is the first time ever that the title “Street Photographer of the Year” has been awarded in the UK to a citizen journalist using a mobile phone. The winner is young tech whizz Kheoh Yee Wei, who lives in Leeds. His prize, on top of the street photographer title, is the state of the art Olympus LS-20M camcorder. Kheoh’s winning photo is pictured, above.

One of the judges, Eamonn McCabe, the renowned and award-winning press photographer, said: “The quality of entrants was surprisingly so good it was really hard to choose a winner. Kheoh’s entry stood out as a result of the wonderful characters he cleverly captured with his mobile phone.

Read more about the competition winners and view their photos on The-Latest.Com: http://www.the-latest.com/cjet-photography-winners.

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03

12 2011

Everybody Needs an Editor

Regardless of who you are or the writing experience you have, you need an editor or at least a friend to help you proof your articles or copy.

It is impossible to catch your own errors, typos, etc. You know what you think you typed, so you read it that way. But is that what shows up on the computer screen in front of you?

The word “your” is a perfect example. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read – and typed – the word “you” when it should have been “your.” Another mistake I’ve made recently is typing concentration instead of concentrating.

I also used the word “memorial” instead of “monument” in a draft of a recent article. Luckily, another person who was familiar with the topic proofed the article and caught my blunder.

Mistakes happen to the best of us. I’ve been reporting and writing for decades, and I still make them. That’s why an editor – or just a friend – is so important to help catch errors.

Ask a friend to take a look at what you’ve written. It may take an extra few minutes, but it may save you some embarrassment.

If a friend – or editor – isn’t available, here are few tips on how to best edit your own copy.

Slow down and take your time – a concept that is sometimes hard to implement when faced with a deadline or time constraint.

Read what you’ve written several times after you have typed it. The first edit should focus on grammar and misspelled or misused words. To best catch those mistakes and typos, read your copy out loud.

The second edit can focus on whether the copy makes sense. How many times have you read an article or an email and wondered what the author really meant to say?

If time allows, give some distance between your readings, like an hour or two. That gives you a chance to walk away, think about something else and then come back more refreshed to look at your writing and catch possible errors.

Finally, don’t forget to check and double-check phone numbers, website addresses and the spelling of people’s names. Those are mistakes you really don’t want to make.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

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19

11 2011

The Challenge of Obtaining Information Under Deadline Pressure

The idea of completing an article on a deadline can often be intimidating for citizen journalists, especially when hard-to-get interviews are involved.

And there may be times when not all the information can be obtained by the time you need to complete your article. As a citizen journalist, you will need to learn the best way around this difficulty.

For starters, you will probably have to write a follow-up article when more information becomes available.

And you’ll have to be persistent – but not a pest – when you try to contact individuals who have the key information that you need.

There will be occasions when people simply refuse to be interviewed or to be available for an interview. That is their prerogative. No one is required to give you an interview.

But there are techniques you can use to try and get them to talk to you.

1) Always identify yourself and say that you’re working as a citizen journalist for whatever publication or outlet you are writing your story. That information gives you credibility and authenticity, and a reason for requesting an interview.

2) For those individuals who fail to return your phone call, try going to their office to see if you can catch them between meetings. Or, ask someone in the office if there is someone else you could talk to who could provide you with the needed information.

3) Try to understand the source’s position. Perhaps there is a good reason the person is not available to be interviewed. Perhaps the source has meeting after meeting and no time to respond to a phone call.

If that’s the case, let your sources know you will only take a minute of their time. Make sure you have done your research and are knowledgeable about the topic at hand so you won’t waste time asking basic questions.

In the end, it may be impossible to get the interview in the time you have allotted to complete your story. To let your readers know you tried to get all the answers to your questions, you should include a sentence, such as: “Repeated attempts to reach the city police chief were unsuccessful” or
“The mayor failed to return phone calls requesting clarification on the issue.”

Those sentences let your readers know that you realize the story may not be complete and that you tried your best to get answers to the questions they might have.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists“.

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20

10 2011

CJ Handbook Becomes a Resource in Malaysia

The training and motivation offered in the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” has gone international.

The handbook, believed to be the only book written for citizen journalists, was given to all of the participants at the second conference for citizen journalists in Malaysia Sept. 23-25.

“The citizen journalists were impressed with the book,” Maran Perianen, a trainer of citizen journalists, told handbook co-authors Ron Ross and Susan Cormier in an email.

“I also plan to give the book in my future training for their reference,” said Perianen, who also is the program director for an online news agency, Malaysiakini.

Malaysiakini, with the assistance of Washington, D.C.-basedInternationalCenterfor Journalists, has successfully conducted almost 70 workshops across Malaysian and has trained more than 350 citizen journalists, according to Perianen.

As the result of this training, Perianen said, the citizen journalists have successfully produced more than 1,500 news videos and almost 1,000 news articles.

“These stories have triggered significant reactions from many individuals, organizations and the government itself.”

I am pleased the citizen journalists will be using the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists’’ as a resource guide. I truly believe that the information, motivation and training they will receive from the handbook will help them in their future endeavors.

And, of course, Ron Ross and I both want to congratulate the Malaysian journalists for their work and wish them continued success.

You can visit the Malaysian website at http://www.cj.my/.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

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01

10 2011

New Call for Citizen Journalism Training

An independent media researcher has joined the campaign to better educate citizen journalists.

In her report, Citizen Journalism and the Internet – an Overview, researcher Nadine Jurrat recognizes that “citizen journalists have become regular contributors to mainstream news, providing information and some of today’s most iconic images, especially where professional journalists have limited access or none at all.”

But she also notes that these citizen journalists need ethical, legal and business training to be taken seriously by professional media and audiences alike.

“In order for citizen journalists to continue providing relevant information for the general public, training in ethical standards and legal pitfalls in the context of personal reporting should be made more widely available.”

I couldn’t agree more. There have been instances where individuals who call themselves citizen journalists totally abandon journalistic ethics and disregard any legal repercussions that could occur.

That’s why I’ve been so involved in training citizen journalists. In fact, the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” that I co-authored includes chapters on those very subjects – libel and 15 core value for citizen journalists.

I believe the handbook is a must-read for any practicing or aspiring citizen journalist.

To purchase your copy, visit www.citizenjournalistnow.com/.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

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17

07 2011

Google WDYL a Windfall for Citizen Journalists

” Google+,” (Google Plus) which is Google’s second attempt at harnessing social media was getting all the buzz this week, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that Google launched a search tool that will be useful for citizen journalists and place bloggers, without any buzz at all.

Screen shot 2011-06-30 at 11.11.55 AM

Screen shot of WDLY.com, Google's new search utility

WDLY.com is the new site, and it stands for What do you love?

I already love WDLY. The site starts with a plain looking search engine page, with the question “What do you love” a “from Google” note, and a search box. Type in a search term or terms, and WDYL returns a grid that holds a series of sub-searches on your term.

 

I discovered WDLY.com via smartphone, traveling on the subway. When I found it,  I typed “Chicago” into the search box, because that is a subject I know about. WDLY.com takes your search term and runs it through a very useful collection of what I would call “sub-searches” that it presents on one page. The design is flexible, so it scales to be readable on any size screen.

It pays to treat any new tool like any kind of information, and be a journalist. Vet it before you use or recommend it. That means, look you for mistakes, errors, and omissions and verify that it works. When you can explain it to yourself, you are ready to use that tool as citizen journalist.

So I took it through its paces and here is what I found out about WDYL.com. First it is a Google-centric tool. The sub-searches it conducts are on Google-related sites, for example, it includes:

  • Measure Popularity (Google Trends)
  • Explore Chicago 3-D (Sketchup)
  • Make a Photo Album (Picasa)
  • Find Books (Google books)
  • Translate (Google Translate)
  • Watch videos (Youtube.com)
  • Call someone (Google Voice)
  • Scour the Earth (Google Earth, KML)

The searches were fast, and what you expect from these tools. For a citizen journalist, the news tool is a quick way to monitor what’s going on and see if there is breaking news. It is not the kind of exhaustive, custom search you need to do when you are doing in-depth reporting.

The 3-D was more useful than I thought, because Chicago is a center of architecture, and most of our major skyscrapers have been rendered in 3-D. I’d pull those in if there was an emergency or perhaps to illustrate a zoning variance story. If you are writing about phyical objects, be sure to try the 3-D and see if it has images that could illustrate your story.

The trends search is more useful if you narrow your search term, for example, I could search for “Chicago mayor,” and see that topic was trending up as the last mayoral election was held. I think “Trends” searches can add to a story, but it is easy to forget to do one when you are using Google’s regular search page.

An important thing to remember, is that if you are signed into Google, when you do a WDYL search, it will customize some of the searches based on your login. So the “Make a Photo Album” brings back only your photos if you are logged into Google. If you aren’t logged in, then you will see all the public albums that meet your search criteria. This could prove confusing if you work with shared computers, or switch between Google accounts.

For some of the offerings like Google Voice, or Calendar, you will have to login or sign up for an account in order to use the feature.

The pros of WDYL are its speed, ease of use, it scales to any device, and you can customize it to work with any Google login. Because the sub-searches are in boxes in a grid view, the sidebar can feature a navigation grid that makes scrolling up and down a bit more precise and easier to accomplish. Cartoonist Scott McCloud’s pioneering work on visualizing images on the web, used a sidebar navigation grid that was way more elegant than WDYL’s, but I’ve always found that style of navigation to be intuitive and user-friendly.

The cons of WDYO are that it is Google-centric, and that because it customizes to your Google login, it could confuse a user. While Google is generally “good,” it should give all of us pause to trust any single site or company as our information source. For journalists, this is very important to remember.

WDYL.com isn’t going to beat blekko.com for elegant, scholarly, and specific searching, but it is easier to use than blekko, and its multiple search dimensions give you a quick and easy overview of your search domain.

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01

07 2011

Video: How to Get Started in Citizen Journalism

Johnu78 on MetaCafe gives a basic rundown on the tools you could use to start out as a citizen journalist.

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30

06 2011

Better Ways to Find Trends

Meranda Watling at 10,000 Words says that in order to find trends that can become reliable news stories, you need to have good database tools. Yes, we’re going back to that new field of database journalism. Seriously, for any citizen journalist who is unable to get out “on the beat” this is a great way to put together useful news stories.

7 Places To Look For Database Journalism Stories

 

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22

06 2011

Curating Citizen and Community News Stories

Journalists today are being urged to add context and curate news events for their viewer/users. As OMNI’s Joe McPherson says, just start with “…an article or video from a citizen journalism source and talk about it.” For lots of local news, this kind of simple reporting works well.

You can find a newsworthy post or photo or video, and add a bit of background information, some details, and explain the local connection or angle to the story, and it works for your audience.

There are stories, even local stories, that end up generating streams of comments and SMS-style updates, related photos, or videos but as they are posted in real time, they don’t create a structured narrative.

Reporters today need to learn how to verify, source, and analyze social information streams to provide context. Curating is adding a structure or frame to this social stream, reducing redundancy or echo in the messages, and writi

ng what you know best, and just  linking  to the rest.

I found a small but important example of this new kind of reporting on one of Chicago’s Everyblock community sections. From the initial question about an incident of  indecent exposure– a “flasher” –near an elementary school, a discussion ensures about the flasher and what can be done. Then a community reporter,  tipped to the stream by his publisher, uses the community site to get in contact with the victim. The reporter followed up on the story, which ended with the apprehension and arrest of the flasher. The reporter published the story in print, but then posted it back on the community site.

Most of the interesting reading, from the comments to the timeline, to the reporter’s version of the story, happened online as part of Everyblock’s community section for Bowmanville/Ravenswood, or via Twitter. If I tried to copy/paste and link them here, it would have been a big job. Instead, I used a new tool, storify.com, that let’s a reporter easily integrate social media from multiple social networks into a storyline, with drag and drop. It preserves all attribution and metadata of each element, and is set up for easy sharing when your story is finished.

You can read and view how the social media are formatted automatically with the metadata and links for yourself. You will be able to view the discussion as it happened. What do you think of this method of curating a story? Want to talk about it? Leave a comment.

The Future of News is Social, Local, and Gets a Flasher off the Streets – storify.com.

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08

06 2011